Special Forum

As we awaken to alarm bells that this year has the potential to be transformative—a pandemic, a jolt to energy markets amidst climate change, the arrival of 5G, and far-reaching domestic political realignment—we should not lose sight of historical memories poised to be revived in a year of commemorations. Should 2020 be seen as a turning point to a new era to replace the post-Cold War era of the past three decades, how might narratives of two earlier milestones in world history matter—1945 when WWII ended and 1990 at the conclusion of the Cold War? To try to answer this question, let us consider three of the building blocks of the era that may be expiring: the continuously strengthening bonds between China and Russia; the ever-tightening ties between the United States and Japan; and the successful balancing of Sino-South Korean relations in a fraught regional environment. In search of clues to whether these bilateral arrangements are destined to continue or could shift as defining elements of the new era, we concentrate on Chinese and Russian narratives of what happened at the end of the Cold War, conflicting Chinese and South Korean narratives of its effects, and a Japanese understanding of the limitations of how the Cold War ended. Looming in the background in each set of historical memories are the images of 1945 in this anniversary year.  

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